This week a friend asked, “What is the most important quality about a leader, regardless of their field?” He was specifically looking for something about leadership that is overlooked. The answer that immediately came to me is likely the same as comes to you. It is so obvious that it is almost a cliché. What do we really want from our leaders? What separates good leaders from poor ones?
Integrity is both right and good. That is, honesty and transparency are values that most people hold high. Generally, people agree that to be forthcoming is the right thing to do. Furthermore, people want to follow people they trust. Effective, leaders gain followers by demonstrating consistency in their words and actions. On the other hand the influence of leaders, even those who have great talent, is compromised if people do not trust them.
Unfortunately, integrity is more easily discussed than lived out. A single misstep, or even the appearance of a lie, can counterbalance the rest of a leader’s life. A leader can believe s/he is acting with integrity and be judged differently by others. So, leaders need to not only be honest and consistent, but they also must appear that way to others.
We are refreshed and inspired when we recognize integrity in others. These are the kind of people we want to follow.